6 Civil War Reenactments You Have to See

Reenactors recall the pivotal battles of the Civil War. (Source: iStock / Chris Browne)

While history has a habit of being forgotten, the South is intentional about remembering the conflicts that have marked its past. In particular, our region has a tradition of Civil War reenactments that are truly mesmerizing, offering both a touchpoint for remembering critical U.S. history and a means of learning about the life and times of America in the 1800s. If you’re looking for a fun, theatrical, and educational experience, we recommend nothing more than these six Civil War reenactments.

Battle of Olustee Reenactment (Sanderson, Florida)

The Union forces were routed, thanks for the defenses of General Colquitt. (Source: Wikipedia)
The Union forces were routed, thanks for the defenses of General Colquitt. (Source: Wikipedia)

This family-friendly event chronicles the Confederate win in Florida, where Union General Truman Seymour and his army clashed with the forces of Confederate General Alfred Colquitt. The battle was never meant to happen, actually; Seymour, who landed in Jacksonville to disrupt the South’s food supply, opted to disobey orders and continue on to Tallahassee. He was met with fierce resistance before he arrived, however, forcing his troops back to Jacksonville.

While the 2020 reenactment of the battle has passed (it occurs in February), you can plan ahead for next year’s. The battle reenactment is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the event, though ancillary demonstrations, concerts, parades, and an arts-and-crafts fair are also on-hand. Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for children.

Battle of Aiken Reenactment (Aiken, South Carolina)

Union soldiers prepare for battle at Aiken. (Source: Shutterstock / Denton Rumsey)
Union soldiers prepare for battle at Aiken. (Source: Shutterstock / Denton Rumsey)

Another February event, the Battle of Aiken reenactment commemorates the narrow Confederate win over General Sherman’s second-in-command General Judson Kilpatrick. The battle occurred while Sherman and his troops were cutting a swath through South Carolina, burning down villages in the hopes of crippling (and demoralizing) the South. Confederate General Joseph Wheeler’s victory at Aiken offered a glimmer of hope in the face of Sherman’s ruthless march.

This riveting reenactment is focused on the battle itself and doesn’t offer any additional events. It does, however, play host to school classes interested in learning about the history of the U.S. firsthand. Admission is $15 for adults and $5-10 for children (depending on age).

Port Hudson Siege Annual Reenactment (Jackson, Mississippi)

What was meant to be a quick assault turned into a 48-day siege at Port Hudson. (Source: Wikipedia)
What was meant to be a quick assault turned into a 48-day siege at Port Hudson. (Source: Wikipedia)

Between May and July 1863, the Union army besieged the Confederate stronghold of Port Hudson as a final attempt to recapture the Mississippi River. Union General Nathaniel Banks was tasked with successfully capturing the port, but met with significant resistance, turning what was meant to be a quick assault into a 48-day siege. It was only after General Grant captured nearby Vicksburg and threatened reinforcement that the Port’s commander, General Franklin Gardner, gave up the redoubt to Banks (see more about historic Vicksburg here).

The siege reenactment’s events include an artillery demonstration, a gunboat demonstration, a medical demonstration, and a Civil War dance class. Plan ahead for this annual February reenactment; admission is a very affordable $4.

Barboursville Civil War Days (Barboursville, West Virginia)

While a smaller reenactment, the Barboursville event commemorates key battles in the Civil War. (Source: Barboursville.org)
While a smaller reenactment, the Barboursville event commemorates key battles in the Civil War. (Source: Barboursville.org)

Commemorating two battles that occurred in Barboursville (in 1861 and 1862), Civil War Days in this small West Virginia Town offer more than choreographed warfare. The weekend-long event includes a ladies’ tea, dinner, dance, and a canon demonstration, among other to-dos. Admission fees are unavailable, but reenactors can reserve a spot in the battle for either $100 (up to four canons) or $50 (up to five infantrymen or cavalry). Check the website for up-to-date information.

Battle of Tunnel Hill Reenactment (Tunnel Hill, Georgia)

Smoke washes over the Union line at the Battle of Tunnel Hill. (Source: Shutterstock / Jeff Kinsey)
Smoke washes over the Union line at the Battle of Tunnel Hill. (Source: Shutterstock / Jeff Kinsey)

Throughout the Civil War, Tunnel Hill served as the site of a major hospital system that treated numerous Confederate and Union soldiers. Later in the war, Tunnel Hill saw the start of the Atlanta campaign, hosting numerous engagements between the North and the South until the war ended in 1865.

The September reenactment is complemented by a ladies’ social, a living history program for kids, a ball, a concert by the Official Band of the Alabama Division of Reenactors, and of course, several canon and artillery demonstrations. Admission fees are not listed, though reenactors are asked to make a $5 donation to offset event expenses.

Shenandoah Valley Battle Reenactments (Shenandoah, Virginia)

Confederate canon units fire on assaulting Union soldiers (Source: Shutterstock / Deatonphotos)
Confederate canon units fire on assaulting Union soldiers (Source: Shutterstock / Deatonphotos)

Held throughout the year, Shenandoah Valley battle reenactments chronicle several engagements in the area, including the First Battle of Kernstown and the Battle of McDowell. In addition to the reenactments themselves, the battlefields host conferences, balls, seminars, and other events that educate the public on the pivotal role the region played during the Civil War. For the full history of Shenandoah Valley and its importance to both sides during the war, visit the website above. You’ll also find information on upcoming events, key players during the war, and battlefield preservation information.